Anishinaabe community leader Liz Osawamick shared her stories and knowledge as a Water Walker with the Grade 4s at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS) earlier this week. For the past few months, students in Robin Shaw’s class have been conducting an extensive inquiry into water.
Liz’s visit comes toward the end of their investigations as students begin to make connections with social justice issues, including environmental concerns surrounding water and water access rights occurring here in Ontario.
Liz began the day by explaining what it means to be a Water Walker. For Liz, the journey began 10 years ago when she planned a walk around Rice Lake near Peterborough, Ontario – the lake nearest to her home. Come to be known as Kawartha Lakes Water Walks, the event now takes place annually on Mother’s Day weekend to celebrate mothers, grandmothers and “Mother Earth,” who sustains life with her water. Liz has been following in the footsteps of her friend and mentor, the late Josephine Mandamin, who began water walks in 2003. Josephine walked around all five of the Great Lakes and is the subject of the acclaimed children’s book, The Water Walker, which chronicles her efforts to raise awareness of the need to protect Nibi (water in Anishinaabemowin).
While visiting with the Grade Fours, Liz shared a story about her nephew creating a ceremonial staff for the Water Walks made from wood he found in the forest. The staff is carried by men during the walk. She also taught about the significance of carrying a copper pail filled with lake water at the front of the water walk.
Liz then led the students in a water ceremony. Students participated in a smudge and sampled water and berries. They all then sang a beautiful water song.
In the coming weeks, the Grade Fours will be creating signs to bring with them when they conduct their own water walk around Grenadier Pond in High Park, Toronto. Liz shared examples of signs made by students she has worked with previously.
The Robertson Program will be featuring the water inquiry by Robin’s Grade Four class on our website. Check back soon to see how the students’ thinking progressed and learn from Robin’s insights about her role as an educator leading inquiry.
The Robertson Program sincerely thanks Liz Osawamick for visiting our community at JICS. Liz is a long-time friend of the program, first connecting with us during our M4YC work with the Kawartha Pine Ridge School Board (KPRDSB). She has since joined us to share her knowledge at both of our conferences held in Treaty#3 Territory. In addition to being a Water Walker and activist, Liz is a jingle dress dancer, a devoted parent and an educator, teaching at KPRDSB and Trent University.